JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Perks of being a legislator in Missouri (search): a daily expense allowance, special license plates and don't forget the free movies.
For more than a decade now, the United Motion Picture Association (search) has provided passes that admit state lawmakers to most theaters in the state to see almost any film they want.
There's no way to tell how often lawmakers take advantage of the offer, but at least one said he has no qualms about it.
"I don't know anything about the organization that provides the passes," said GOP Sen. Gary Nodler, a movie buff who studied film history in college. "I've never had any contact or communication with them, I don't believe they lobby at all, and I can't imagine what their issues would be."
That's OK with the trade group, which says it didn't try to influence anything in the Missouri Capitol last year and hasn't tried to do so for quite some time.
Instead, it sees the passes as "a courtesy effort on the motion picture industry's behalf to stay on their good side," said Brad Bills, executive secretary of the association, which represents about three-quarters of the theaters in Missouri and Kansas.
(Sorry, Kansas lawmakers: The film passes are given out only in Missouri.)
The passes are good for a year and let a lawmaker bring along a friend, though they typically must wait to see a movie until it has been out a few weeks.
Democratic Sen. Victor Callahan, who distributed the passes to senators, said he could not recall how many of his colleagues picked them up. Callahan said he hasn't used the pass, partly because it's not valid at many theaters in his area and partly because it's "sometimes more of a hassle to use the pass than pay your $6 or $7."
Bills said he doesn't think lawmakers use the passes very often.
"Now if we would stop it, I'm sure we would probably get some phone calls — `Hey, where's my pass?"' he said.